Eugene Schuyler

Photo of Eugene Schuyler, American Consul-General in Constantinople.jpg

Eugene Schuyler (Ithaca, New York, February 26, 1840 – Venice, Italy, July 16, 1890) was a nineteenth-century American scholar, writer, explorer and diplomat. Schuyler was one of the first three Americans to earn a Ph.D. from an American university; and the first American translator of Ivan Turgenev and Lev Tolstoi. He was the first American diplomat to visit Russian Central Asia, and as American Consul General in Constantinople he played a key role in publicizing Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria in 1876 during the April Uprising. He was the first American Minister to Romania and Serbia, and U.S. Minister to Greece.

Eugene Schuyler was the son of George W. Schuyler, a drugstore owner in Ithaca, New York who later was elected New York State Treasurer. His father's ancestors, of Dutch descent, included a general in George Washington's army. His mother, Matilda Scribner, was half-sister of Charles Scribner, the founder of the famous American publishing house. At the age of fifteen Schuyler entered Yale College, where he studied languages, literature and philosophy. He graduated with honors in 1859 and was a member of Skull and Bones.:91 He became one of the first graduate students at Yale, and in 1861, he and two other students were the first Americans to receive Ph.D.s from an American university. In 1860 Schuyler became an assistant to Noah Porter, a prominent linguistician and literary figure, in the revision of Webster's Dictionary, the first dictionary of American English. In 1862 Schuyler began to study law at Yale Law School, and received his law degree in 1863 from Columbia Law School. He began practicing law in New York, but did not find it very interesting. Instead he began to write, becoming a contributor to The Nation magazine. He continued to write for The Nation until the end of his life.

In September 1863 a Russian naval squadron made a long stay in New York harbor, hoping to escape capture by the British Navy in the event of a war between Britain and Russia over the Polish Uprising of 1863. Schuyler met some of the officers of the Russian flagship, the Alexander Nevsky, which inspired him to study Russian. He learned Russian well enough to translate the novel of Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, which was published in 1867, the first translation of Turgenev to appear in the United States. The same year Schuyler studied Finnish, and edited the first American translation of the Finnish national epic, Kalevala. In 1864, Schuyler applied for a diplomatic post in the State Department. The State Department took three years to consider his application, and then offered him the position of consul in Moscow, then the second city of Russia. En route to his post, Schuyler stopped in Baden-Baden to meet Turgenev, who gave him a letter of introduction to Lev Tolstoi. Schuyler began his diplomatic tour in Moscow in August 1867.

In the spring of 1868 he made his first trip to the edge of Central Asia, traveling with a Russian merchant, Vasilii Alekseich, by steamboat down the Volga to Samara, then by carriage to Orenburg, which at the time was the base for Russian military operations The Russians had occupied the Khanate of Bukhara in 1866 and were advancing toward Samarkand. In 1868, Schuyler was a guest of Tolstoi for a week at his estate at Yasnaya Polyana, at the time when Tolstoi was finishing War and Peace. He helped Tolstoi rearrange his library, and went hunting with him. Tolstoi, who was interested in public education in the United States, asked Schuyler for copies of American primers and school textbooks. Schuyler received Tolstoi's permission to translate his novel The Cossacks into English. In 1869, the new Administration of President Ulysses Grant removed Schuyler from his post in Moscow and replaced him with a political appointee. Schuyler was able to obtain a post as consul to the Russian port of Reval (now Tallinn). In November, 1869, President Grant appointed a new Minister to Russia, Andrew Curtin, a former Governor of Pennsylvania who knew nothing of Russia. Curtin was impressed by Schuyler and appointed him as the secretary of the American legation in St. Petersburg, a post which Schuyler held until 1876.

Schuyler was able to combine his diplomatic duties with scholarship and travel. He began writing a major biography of Peter the Great, and frequented the meetings of the Russian Geographic Society in St. Petersburg. In 1873, he was one of the first foreigners invited to visit Russia's new conquests in Central Asia.

This page was last edited on 9 May 2018, at 13:33 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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